It was my birthday yesterday. 31. I remember my 30th birthday being a surprisingly simple and elegant time, but the year that followed was punctuated by way too much personal angst and drama: big decisions, loss, two grief cycles, isolation, moving rooms five times (moving house sounds too glamorous), uncertainty, and the tension that thesis boredom and repetition can create. There were chunks of stable, productive, and very happy times, but, on the whole, I think, during 2009-2010, I coughed up some pretty staggeringly high prices for some lessons that I guess I couldn't just steal from the self-help aisle or pinch from a website. I feel better today, in most senses, than ever before, but I paid up, kiddies.
Here are some of those lessons:
- Take charge. No one is going to get you out of situations you don't want to be in, or help you into others, and certainly not the right way, anyway. Those who love you can't always be expected to push you off from the shore, even if you're fretfully thinking, 'Can't they see that I need a push?' This goes for personal and professional stuff.
- Beware fear of loss and rejection. These anxieties mean that you can attach too early, fantasize at the cost of really knowing the other, become ungrounded, and ultimately disrespect your own personal standards and boundaries. Don't foreclose early. Loss creates space, and rejection is, for the most part, a benevolent thing.
- Fear is contagious. No matter how sensible and sincere you think you are being in a relationship or friendship, there is nothing like a bit of fear (anger, defensiveness, dishonesty etc) from the other to warp your behaviour. Builds up. It becomes very hard to listen. Goes both ways.
- Remember the love. Lots of people love and value me, and I adore them. I am absurdly lucky in this way. I just spoke to my twin. Last week, my parents treated me to a holiday in France in which we met up with our French family friends. We also won pretty big on Neptune's Fortune at the Casino of Monte Carlo. I like that I've now been to a casino with my parents. They go all the time so it was nice of them to finally include me (wink, wink). Yesterday, a friend took me to late lunch at this nice French place in Oxford, then last night, a bunch of friends took me out for cocktails, dinner and nice chat. They also granted me my wish: to be sung Happy Birthday in a non-English language, in character. Included Latin, Dutch, Urdu, and Spanish. If that's not supremely loving...well, I just don't know...(fierce shake of my double chin)
- Generosity emerges from unexpected sources. A new friend made my birthday very special by taking me to a lovely dinner and out to a College party on Friday night. We laughed a lot and he just knows.
- Adversity can be a good test. Crap situations test your ability to respond to life with creativity and self-composure, and this, I think, is a reflection of how much you know and like yourself, in the good way, not the narcissistic way (narcissism actually blocks these opportunities for growth). Of course, some situations are just crap and you have to just get through without any theorising.
- Maybe just don't say it. Not everything needs to be expressed. Wait and see what remains to be said. My friend says to put things through the 'necessary and kind' test. Equally, not everything deserves a response. I have realised over the year that I actually don't like talking as much about things as I used to. I don't need to. Plus, I am more practical, outward, and flexible by nature. But I did hurt someone I love with too many words. Fortunately, we had enough in the bank. I am hoping the next year is one big 'shh...'
- Take your time. Giving yourself enough time and space for recalibration after set-backs is crucial. If you don't consciously do this, your body and mind will take it from you anyway, in some form, which means that no matter what you're intending, you simply won't have enough of the right stuff to give, and you'll probably be giving it to the wrong thing or person anyway.
- Chin up, chaps. Even if you have to start again at your beginnings, you're wiser for it, and it can be quite a light time anyway.
- Give yourself more credit.
The photographs are of my recent trip to France and of my party outfit that I purchased there.
Please tell me a life lesson or two that you have acquired over the past year...But only if you feel like it. ; )